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COLUMN

Another Black Eye for Boxing

Jeff Roberts

Don King should be behind bars. The world’s top boxing promoter is, in my mind, guilty of promoting nothing but the bastardization of one of the world’s oldest civilized sports. Maybe, in the spirit of the ancients, he should be thrown to the lions. Or, in the spirit of our America, he could be tarred and feathered and ridden out of Las Vegas on a rail. Of course, with that hairdo, the tarring and feathering probably wouldn’t have any noticeable effect.

Of course I’m talking about the recent heavyweight championship fight between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield. For those of you who didn’t see it, let me summarize. Lewis, the World Boxing Council champion, stepped into the ring conditioned, focused and prepared to become the first British fighter of the century to win a unified heavyweight title. Holyfield, the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association champion, ambled into the ring singing to himself, seemingly prepared to go to a night club. Of course, he had nothing to worry about --according to his version of the “truth,” he was going to knock Lewis out in the third round. The truth was that Holyfield planned on only fighting in the third round, and he failed to even come close to knocking Lewis down. The rest of the fight was a steady series of stiff jabs and lead rights connecting to Holyfield’s head. The fight ended with Lewis having thrown 613 punches and landed 348, compared to Holyfield’s 385 thrown and 130 landed. For six of the twelve rounds, Holyfield landed fewer than 10 punches per round. It was clear that Lewis had won -- clear to everyone but the judges, who scored the fight 115-113 for Holyfield, 116-113 for Lewis, and a 115-115 tie, respectively, ending the match in a draw and allowing the fighters to retain their original titles. Lewis did everything he could to beat Holyfield, but he couldn’t beat the corrupt boxing world organized by Don King.

Yeah, I think that the outcome may have been fixed. But why should I jump to conclusions? There are other explanations for what happened. The judges could have been intoxicated. If they weren’t, then two of them were clearly watching some other fight. Judge Jean Williams said after the fight, “I don’t care who the winner was; I scored by the blows that connected,” which is a perfectly reasonable way to score a fight. But this doesn’t explain why she scored the fight for Holyfield, who connected 228 fewer blows than Lewis. Larry O’Connell from Britain scored it a draw, despite his fear of criticism from British fans. Of course it’s honorable not to let one’s nationality influence the score of the fight. What should influence the score, however, is the quality by which the boxers fought. Call me crazy, but that’s what I think. I also think that whether the judges were mindless, drunk, or rigged, the blame should fall directly into the overfed lap of Don King just for letting it happen.

He’s not suffering from this, though. He immediately began talking to both fighters about promoting the rematch, which the IBF, WBA, and WBC announced must happen within six months. Holyfield, obviously, said that this was perfectly fine with him. He gets six months to correct the blunders he made in the first fight. The victim is Lennox Lewis, who now has to win more fights to get the title which he deserves to have right now.

Of course, everyone knows that the real victim is heavyweight boxing altogether. We all knew that it was headed straight for the gutter after the cannibalistic madness called Tyson-Holyfield II. But the injury that Holyfield faced at the teeth of Mike Tyson was nothing compared to the insult that Lewis faced at the words of the fight announcer. World class boxing has been taking repeated blows to the head, and most of these have been delivered by Don King, the showman who’s been turning it into a high-class imitation of the World Wrestling Federation. We were all looking forward to a good heavyweight fight, and we didn’t get one. So now we have to watch it again while Don King makes more money and the rest of heavyweight boxing does nothing (consider the upcoming Larry Holmes-George Foreman fight -- sponsored by Weight Watchers and Gold Bond Medicated Powder).

People want to see better fights than this one, but they’re not going to until King has exhausted every cent out of it that he possibly can. Many people don’t care about boxing, but there are still some of us who feel that boxers train very hard to do their job and should be treated as sportsmen and not spectacles. If King is going to take a few swings at boxing, it’s about time boxing started hitting back. I’d personally like to see him go twelve rounds with Lewis, followed by twelve with Holyfield, and then maybe twelve with Mike Tyson. Now there’s a fight that I’d promote for free.